After Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on the charge of sedition recently, a fierce debate has started if India should retain or do away with the 156-year-old colonial era ‘draconian law’.
The British liberally used it against freedom fighters during India’s struggle for freedom.
After Independence, the ‘archaic law’ has been used against political opponents, mostly during the Emergency.
In the recent years, the law has been slapped on seemingly ‘innocuous people’ including a cartoonist, writers, and folk singers.
Here are some facts about Sedition Law you may need to know:
1. According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the word sedition means, “The use of words or action that are intended to encourage people to oppose a government”.
In India, Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code is called ‘sedition’.
It says: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India’ shall be punished with life imprisonment.”
Whoever expresses strong disapproval of the government lawfully without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection do not constitute an offense under this section.
2.It has its origin in Great Britain evolving from some common oldest laws such as the Statute of Westminster 1275.
In 1819, it came to be known as Criminal Libel Act. The sedition law was introduced in IPC in India in 1870. Great Britain has now abolished the sedition law.
3. During Independent struggle, freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi were booked under sedition.
4. In the recent years, notable persons to be slapped with sedition charge include author Arundhati Roy for her “anti-India” speech and paediatrician and public health specialist Dr.Vinayak Sen for his alleged links with Maoists in 2010.
In 2012, cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested on the charge of sedition and sent to jail for drawing several cartoons.
Hardik Patel, leading the agitation for reservation Patel community of Gujarat, was arrested under sedition last year for suggesting to his community people that instead of committing suicide they should kill policemen.
5. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) published sedition data for the first time in 2014 under ‘Offences against the state’ category.
According to NCRB, 47 sedition cases were reported across nine states in 2014. Bihar had the highest number of cases at 28 followed by 18 in Jharkhand and four each in Odisha and Kerala.
6. Along with India, countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Malaysia and Sudan stick to sedition as a criminal act.